Following a couple of months of not attending while encouraging any one who would stand still for thirty seconds to do so, guilt finally got the best of me and I went to this past Thursday's Common Council meeting.
Alas my suspicions were verified. Nothing has changed which is to say nothing has been accomplished, resolved, put to bed, put out to pasture, put to sleep, or in any other fashion brought to a conclusion, good or otherwise.
The Chief of the Fire Department still can't get a resolution to his hiring procedures even though all in attendance recognized that we need more fire fighters/ambulance operators to safely provide said services to our citizens. There was also some gnashing of teeth concerning a possible discrimination suit being filed over the imbalance of minority employees in that department.
This issue has been kicked around repeatedly since 2005! The best effort that could be mustered this time was to send it back to committee for further review so hopefully it can be readdressed in January 2007!
Our much maligned sewer system operator (EMC) in concert with CM Kochert presented to the council the need for around $57K to repair a section of existing sewer line wherein some brain dead contractor/engineer/previous administration/previous common council had allowed two ends of a 15" sewer line to be connected with an 8" line.
The reasoning given for replacing this line at this time was that the EPA mandated repairs are nearing completion at which time the two year clock starts running. Provided there are no overflow incidents in that time frame, the EPA has indicated we will receive a clean bill of health and can get on with the business of growing our tax base via additional sewer hookups!
Brian Dixon of EMC explained that sections of line like the one described above are a potential threat to that that happening. If an overflow happens for any reason other than possibly Mother Nature dumping 8" a day for multiple days, the cause must be repaired and that pesky two year clock starts from scratch again. He and the Sewer Board seem to think the wiser/cheaper/ more visionary plan of action would be to identify and repair potential hazards to prevent such incidents from occurring.
Following the presentation, we were blessed with the all too expected obstructive contributions from two members of the Gang of Four (CM Schmidt was absent & CM Kochert had brought the issue to the table in the first place).
Mr. Price had to remind us one more time that a sewer rate increase had been levied recently and as expected, this particular department was once again asking for yet more money. (We gotta watch those pennies!)
This was followed by Mr. Coffey wanting to know just how it was they found this particular piece of pipe. Mr Dixon explained they were in the process of sending a video camera thru eventually all of the citys lines in order to evaluate the system and identify such potential problem areas. This pipe was discovered as a result of said investigation.
Mr. Coffey then reminded us that this video taping process had been ongoing for the past 20 years and asked why this situation had not been addressed previously. Mr. Dixon stated that he was unable to answer because he has only been here for a few years. He couldn't explain what had gone before that.
At this point I'm going to interject a personal theory albeit one of which I have currently no first hand knowledge. First of all, I doubt seriously that a 5, 10, or 20 year old video tape would be worth taking as gospel on the current condition of our admittedly overtaxed sewer line system. Time has a nasty habit of changing things and all things deteriorate a little more with its passing.
Secondly, my personal S.W.A.G (thats military slang for Scientific Wild Ass Guess) is that this situation or others like it have indeed been brought to the table on past occassions by former operators/engineers/administrations/common councils. And I'd be willing to bet my 1st born's in heritance that the same foot dragging/unwillingness to spend/ callous disregard for the future of New Albany was the result. Just a guess mind you!
Then Mr. Blevins asked the Mayor about the status of the new garbage packer ,the funds for which were allocated by this same council back in October. The response was there had been a glich in the paperwork for the bidding process, but he's working on resolving it.
Yet another personal observation only this time a somewhat knowledgeable one. I will aquiese that the paperwork for a municipality is more complex than an private sector purchase. Having said that I must say, it is only paperwork!
Once again I'm willing to wager that which I don't have, but I daresay that if one were to sit down at a phone and call six industrial truck dealers, give them the specifications & options one wanted on said vechicle, and the bottom line dollars in hand to pay cash for it, within four to six business days there would be at least three or more bid quotes on ones desk anxiously awaiting a response.
After making a choice, I'd further wager that it would take a week for the dealer to get a truck chassis and a packer body in house. Another week to marry the two into one unit, and a third week for delivery to buyer. Just for the hell of it, I'll throw in a fourth week for such unforseen disasters such as the parts guy transposing a digit or two in the part number resulting in having to reorder or the delivery guy getting lost and going to Chicago instead of Cincinnati or better yet the sales manager rushing out the door for the weekend without having signed the final bill of sale. Long story short in worst case secenario within 30 to 45 days from time of inception, one should be sitting in the seat of his new garbage packer setting the radio buttons to his favorite NPR stations! That's 30 to 45 days to get this complex paperwork properly written. Am I being too critical here?
So here is the long and short of this rant. We the citizens of New Albany have no problem with paying our taxes, paying our sewer bills, putting out our garbage at the appointed time, parking in legal areas, and refraining from jay walking.
In return we ask that our garbage be collected, our toilets flush, our streets be safe, and our ordinances be enforced! In other words, we want our city back. We are tired of slumlords, illegal dumpers, potholes, drug houses, illegal parkers, and most of all excuses why these thing can't be addressed. We want leadership from the city's administration, from its department heads, from the commom council and a willingness from all of the aforementioned to work not only with the public but each other as well to bring New Albany back to a respectable, safe, clean, properous place to live.
In the spirit of fairness let me say that not all adminstration officials, council members, or city employees are obstructionists. In fact most all of them have some very admirable qualities and they do put forth an honest effort to do their jobs.
But as group the lack of leadership, vision, forward thinking and an unwillingness to work together combined with old sores from old scores that were inflicted long ago, wether they be real or imagined, serve only to nueter the process and enable the long existing standoff.
New Albany in times past was known for inovations that were born here before they existed anywhere in this great land. One that sticks in my mind is the very first storefront plate glass manufacturer in America! Our 200th birthday is in 2014. That's a scant 7 years from know. The question on the table is this. Do we really want the embarrasment of being the slumlord rundown rental property capitol of the country during that milestone in our history.
The answer is a resounding NO! We want ordinances with teeth in them, a police department willing to enforce them, a law department capable and willing to prosecute them, a city court to punish the violators of them, an administration willing to enable them, and a common council willing to pass and appropriate the funds to run them!Asking for a lot?
I suppose that depends on your point of view.Willing to accept any less?
Absolutely not!So how do I propose we accomplish thes lofty goals?
Quit our whining, put down our purses, pull up our boot straps and go to work. Attend city and county public meetings and find out not only what is going on presently but what's coming down the pike. Talk to people and try to flush out new faces & new blood to run for office. Register to vote, encourage others to register, and most importantly VOTE when the opportunity arises.
Currently less than 25% of the legally eligible voters in this city bother to go to the poles. That means that one person is deciding the quality of life of three others who had no input for the duration of that election cycle. Police & fire protection, tax rates, sewer rates, street conditions, parking configurations, refuse collection, and on and on and........!
As a voter, I don't want that responsibility! I want you other three to chime in with your ideas, wants and needs. Odds are a couple of you with a different life experience base than mine probably have a solution to some of these issues that I've never thought of. The sad truth is in order for them to ever see the light of day, you must participate in the process!
If you don't, status quo will once again reign supreme. Nothing ever changes unless something changes.
Happy Holidaze New Albany!